Roland TchakounteBlues Singer
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“I’ve always been affected by the downtrodden and the oppressed. This new recording is an open letter to them, a way of giving them the strength to stand up and keep their heads up high.”
Robert Pete Williams, one of the great African-American poets of the blues, discovered in a Louisiana prison farm at the end of the 1950’s, described his art as “air music”: “The sound of the atmosphere, the weather changes my style. The atmosphere, when the wind is blowing, carries music along,” he once explained. His music is endowed with the same atmospheric airiness that reaches the universal.
Born in Cameroon, but a world citizen at heart, Roland treads the bridge that links the blues to Africa on this new album. As was the case with Roland’s five previous sets, Nguémé & Smiling Blues makes use of two idioms to describe the strengths and weaknesses of the First Continent. The blue notes that changed his destiny forever the day he heard a John Lee Hooker recording for the first time: “Hearing him was a true revelatory moment. At first, I thought he was an African artist who had Americanized his name. The spontaneity, the apparent lack of structure, the fire and raw energy, the honesty I was hearing changed my whole perception of music, and I knew on the spot what direction I wanted to give to my music from then on.”
The 13 original compositions that make up Nguémé don’t deal exclusively with sadness and generally praise Africa in a way that’s rarely done by condescending Westerners. Strongly inspired by the flamboyant atmosphere of the electric Chicago blues school relayed by Mike Ravassat’s scorching guitar and the inspired keyboard work of Damien Cornelis from the Malted Milk band, this album is yet another paean to Tchakounté’s original touch. A strong singer in the Taj Mahal tradition, Roland is one of a handful of creators who have successfully built a bridge between Africa and Black America’s ultimate art form, the blues.Read more Read less